Snowboarding 101: Origins and Olympic history

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Origins
It all started with the “Snurfer” — essentially, a toy for children invented in 1965. The board had no bindings; instead, the user steered the board by use of a rope attached to the front.

With the Snurfer gaining popularity and attracting a few daredevil participants, the years that followed featured new products building on the Snurfer’s concept. In the late 1970s, Jake Burton and Tom Sims separately began to mass-produce their own board prototypes, paving the way for what would become the modern snowboard.

The competition scene began to flourish in the 1980s. One of the first major contests was the National Snowboarding Championships, launched in 1982 by a group of people that included pro Snurfer Paul Graves. The event, which was held in Vermont, soon came under the control of Burton and was eventually renamed the U.S. Open.

While the East Coast riders — led by Burton — were focused on racing, there was more of a freestyle revolution taking place out west. Riders began to shape man-made hits which were based on the design of skateboard ramps known as “halfpipes.” In 1983 in California, Sims organized the World Snowboarding Championships, an event which featured the first snowboard halfpipe contest.

As the sport continued to gain national attention, more ski resorts started allowing snowboarders on their slopes. By 1990, snowboarders could go to just about any major resort.

It was also at this time that the first terrain park was built at Bear Mountain in California. Based on the layout of skateboard parks that could be found all over Southern California, this snowboard park incorporated natural terrain and hand-placed obstacles for riders to session. This type of park soon became common at resorts across the country and would become the impetus for slopestyle competitions.

Snowboarding was one of the sports represented at the first-ever Winter X Games in 1997. A year later, it made its Olympic debut at the 1998 Nagano Games, with halfpipe and giant slalom contested. Snowboard cross was added to the Olympic program in 2006, slopestyle premiered in 2014, and big air will make its Olympic debut in PyeongChang.

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1998 Nagano
The first-ever gold medal in Olympic snowboarding went to Canada’s Ross Rebagliati for his win in the men’s giant slalom, but that distinction initially lasted just a few days. Rebagliati had tested positive for marijuana and was stripped of his medal. Fortunately for him, the Court for Arbitration of Sport reinstated his medal the next day.

Gold medalists:
 Gian Simmen (men’s halfpipe)
 Nicola Thost (women’s halfpipe)
 Ross Rebagliati (men’s giant slalom)
 Karine Ruby (women’s giant slalom)

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2002 Salt Lake
A pair of halfpipe contests gave the American fans in attendance plenty to cheer about. In the women’s comp, Vermont native Kelly Clark — then just 18 years old — overcame a bruised tailbone…

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